Magazine article Variety

Senior Moments

Magazine article Variety

Senior Moments

Article excerpt

SENIOR MOMENTS

FILM: THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (FOXSEARCHLIGHT) (U.S./U.K.)

Director: John Madden; Cast Judl Dench, Magge Smith, Bill Nighy

India is the new Italy for retirees seeking a hot climate to renew their lust for life, based on the evidence of comedy-drama "The Beet Exotic Marigold Hotel." Frequently droll and likable, albeit thoroughly predictable, helmer John Madden's latest boasts a crack cast of seasoned thesps who sock over every wry line and wring maximum emotional resonance from a sometimes clunky script about a gaggle of Brit seniors who move to Jaipur. The potentially huge but usually underserved demographic of 50-plus ands could take a real shine to "Marigold," if cultivated correctly.

Quickfire opening montage, featuring tiny scenes spliced together so quickly it plays like a 50 Cent video, relates the circumstances of the pic's seven elderly protags. Recently widowed Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench) has just found out her late husband frittered away most of their money and has to sell her plush London home to pay off debts. Married couple Douglas and Jean Ainslie (Bill Nighy aiid Penelope Wilton) have likewise been unlucky and lost all their savings investing in their daughter's straggling startup.

Senior singletons Madge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie) and Norman Cousins (Ronald Pickup) long to find new love partners, or, in Norman's case, to just get to have sex again. Retired high-court judge Graham Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson) merely iongs for a change of scene. Finally, diehard xenophobe Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) discovers that getting a hip replacement and recovering from it in India would be a better option than what's on offer from Blighty's national health service.

All of the above thus choose to "outsource" themselves to the newly opened Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in Jaipur, a once-stately, now-ramshackie palace that irrepressibly optimistic owner Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) has presciently marketed to the Gerttol set as a retirement residence. However, he's rather played down in his brochure the lack of doors on some of the rooms and presence of roosting pigeons in others.

The seven transplants take up various attitudinal positions on India. Having been raised there as a child and back now to search for a long-lost love, Graham embraces India's challenges, its kind people and beauty. At the other end of the spectrum, Jean is horrified by the inefficiency and squalor, and refuses to venture further than the hotel compound, while Muriel, incapacitated by her surgery, similarly stays put and insists she won't eat anything she doesn't know how to pronounce.

Perhaps trying to reflect the sensory overload of the country in which it's set, the pic barely relaxes the pace after its whirlwind opening. Script by Ol Parker, adapted from a novel by Deborah Moggach, quickly cycles through the various characters' storylines as the relationships between them fracture and reconfigure with dizzying speed.

At times it feels as if Parker and Madden ("The Debt") have crammed in too much, the equivalent of six months' worth of soap-opera action, into the two-hour running time. The speed with which Muriel, for instance, converts from total racist to wise, kindly old dear by the end stretches credibility too far, even allowing for the slack auds will cut the ever lovable Smith in the role. Elsewhere, some might feel uncomfortable about the fact that the oniy gay character gets handily killed off before he does anything that might frighten the horses or the film's more conservative target aud. …

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